Racism in Sports

Liberty athletes share their stories of discrimination during school activites.

Arin+Bedingfield+performing+the+Liberty+fight+song+before+a+football+game.

Katie Tippet

Arin Bedingfield performing the Liberty fight song before a football game.

Ever since Liberty opened in 2017, athletics have been one of the things the school has been most recognized for. Liberty has a total of 23 sports offered throughout the school year. Recently, discrimination in sports has been gaining more attention than ever and some student-athletes at Liberty have acknowledged they have experienced issues with this as well. One of the most well-known stories on the issue happened in Arizona on October 22nd, 2019. The volleyball playoff game between Salt River High School and Caurus Academy was stopped after crowd members repeatedly harassed Salt River players with racist gestures and slurs. Members in the crowd referred to the players as “savages” as the match became more competitive. Recognizing that this issue has been brought to light more in recent years, two Live Wire staff members asked numerous Liberty student-athletes if they have been targeted with hate or racism while playing for our school. 

It should be noted that a number of student-athletes were asked to speak on this issue and one said they didn’t want to talk about the issue and another student said they would only go on record if they could remain anonymous. All students that were approached for this story are current Liberty student-athletes.

The student who wanted to remain anonymous wanted to ensure their anonymity to protect themselves from further comments or racially charged comments. 

This is what this student had to say:

“While participating in sports at Liberty, there have been a few occasions where I have seen and experienced racism towards people of color on the team. One experience that I remember happening to me was when we were having a team t-shirt and our team leaders would give everyone a “nickname”. Other people got cute nicknames while I got “ricey.” I don’t know if they made it with malicious intent or not but all I could do in that situation was laugh and pretend like it didn’t affect me. Some of my other teammates were also shocked that they did this to me and no one else but there was nothing anyone could do about it.¨

This same anonymous source said: “I don’t think our coaches knew what happened but after that experience, I felt very uncomfortable with our group leaders. Because they were in the position of authority, they were able to do what they wanted. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them, hang out with them, or anything else because even if they meant it as a joke, it didn’t feel like a joke to me.”

Another student-athlete, Arin Bedingfield, junior, also shared what she has encountered with race during activities.

“I’ve never experienced racism in sports or anything but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Even though I’ve never experienced anything, I have heard stories of other people facing these issues. I definitely don’t think it starts or stops with students even though they are a huge contribution. I feel like some of the staff is to blame for people of color feeling unsafe in their environment due to some of the things they’ve said. I just want to say that just because you might not see something happening or people you surround yourself with have never experienced it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. There are many people suffering in silence because they feel like they’re alone and have no one to stick up for them so if you see something, say something. Hold your friends accountable.”

The anonymous student also shared why they think this is a common and recurring issue here at Liberty.

“I believe that this issue is very common, not just in sports but throughout the whole school. Although it may not be publicly spoken [about] in fear of being caught by teachers, there is a lot of subtle racism which includes muttering slurs under their breath, purposely excluding people of color, trying to justify people of colors complaints with the phrase “You’re just being overdramatic, it was a joke¨, and even more. I think this occurs because people aren’t willing to accept others for who they are. Skin color should not be a reason why people are mean to each other and I believe that all people should be able to feel safe at school no matter their identities and in this case, their skin color and heritage,¨ they shared.

¨At Liberty, there have been cases of racism and xenophobia towards me in classrooms and the teacher or substitute teacher pretended like they didn’t hear anything. I would like to ask that the Liberty staff act in a way that shows inclusion towards all people and stand up for those who are being harassed. In my own experiences, there have also been teachers who are open to listening to my struggles and have given me emotional and physical support and I want these teachers to know that I am grateful for them and I hope that all teachers will be like that. Being a safe place for those who are struggling is one of the most supportive things that anyone can do.¨

It can be noted that there are resources in the building to help with these types of situations. Student-athletes can reach out for help from their coach, the Athletic-Director, Mr. Morrison, any of the other administrators, or our guidance personnel. Bolt student-athletes shouldn’t feel like experiencing this type of behavior or prejudice is acceptable.

Racism continues to be an issue worldwide and many people of color have experienced it. As time goes on, we grow more accepting of everyone no matter their differences but it is not fair that POC have to continuously experience this. It’s time to acknowledge and make a change because this behavior can no longer continue.